artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has been talked about for years, but is it really close to taking over the world? Could you rely on it to manage your business?

“Maybe you’re using artificial intelligence without knowing that,” said Iva Ignjatovic. “AI is pretty much everywhere. Even search engines predict the full search item.”

Ignjatovic looks at AI through the eyes of a marketing, strategy, leadership and business consultant. She, along with marketer Ivana Taylor, wonders what type of business would you start if you could only use artificial intelligence.

Taylor owns DIYMarketers, a company “committed to helping small business owners get out of overwhelm.” Increasingly, the prospect of AI’s creeping into the marketplace gives entrepreneurs a sense of overwhelming nervousness.

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Ignjatovic and Taylor take a different approach. If not welcoming robot overlords, they suggest owners run their business like it’s 2099, asking how artificial intelligence makes their business better.

“AI can help me become much more productive — arranging calendars, setting meetings and actually completing tasks like an assistant,” Taylor said.

“I’ve definitely become a faster writer, thanks to AI,” she said. “It really helps bust through the writer’s block. I end up changing almost everything, but I can move faster if I see stuff that’s written.”

According to Forbes, only 29 percent of small and medium-sized businesses — those under 1,000 employees — said they have adopted artificial intelligence technology.

“Almost 80 years in the future, I want to be able to connect with AI somehow,” Ignjatovic said. “Make data input faster and easier. AI should be able to do the work for me without making mistakes while I sleep.”

Better for Competition

Both Taylor and Ignjatovic contend artificial intelligence will make it easier for small businesses to compete.

“Artificial intelligence will free up owners to focus on strategy,” Taylor said.

On the finance side, AI already helps employers and employees alike be smart with money.

“Unless AI is accessible — for real, easy to use and implemented — it will be used mainly by large companies,” Ignjatovic said. “That would make things more difficult for small businesses.”

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However, really technologically advanced AI will need to be much more affordable before it will be a good option for many small businesses.

“It will take some time before we actually get to that,” Ignjatovic said.

Already, there are specific areas of a small business where artificial intelligence can significantly impact.

“AI writing tools are amazing,” Taylor said. “There’s Jasper, Writesonic and All do basically the same thing. They will create outlines and content. You’ll have to fact check and rewrite, but it’s pretty damned good.”

DIYMarketers has an article, “5 Amazing AI Writing Software Tools to Write Faster.”

“AI can help automate and customize marketing campaigns, spot trends and analyze data,” Ignjatovic said. “AI is already all around us. People just take it for granted.”

That brings up risks associated with using artificial intelligence in business.

“The biggest risk is assuming the AI is correct,” Taylor said. “You still have to manage your AI. It’s like a person.”

According to AI statistics from Blumberg Capital, 52 percent of consumers don’t believe artificial intelligence will protect their private information. That might also reflect the humans behind AI.

Influence on Data

“Algorithmic bias is a big risk,” Ignjatovic said. “AI depends heavily on data, but it’s programmed by people. Also, AI is not always accurate.

“I want to believe that that transition to AI won’t happen overnight but rather gradually,” she said. “People will have time to learn new skills or adapt. Cybersecurity, information breach and human touch to the business are easy to lose grasp on.”

Any business owner considering using artificial intelligence should keep several things in mind.

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“AI is great for fast data analysis,” Taylor said. “Using AI for A/B testing is a good place to start.

“Incorporate small things,” she said. “Whether it’s an AI writing tool or some kind of data analytics, it’s important to learn how they think and work a little at a time.”

According to BrightEdge, which measures content performance, 31 percent of marketers say the top success story they are seeing with AI is getting a better understanding of the customer.

“Before you jump and use artificial intelligence, define the problem you need AI to solve,” Ignjatovic said.

Before implementing AI, companies should follow basic steps.

“It’s important to identify areas in your business where AI can help speed things up and improve your quality,” Taylor said. “Again, data analysis is a great place to start.”

Identify an actual need that requires AI.

“It’s always a good idea to find an actual project,” Taylor said. “I’ve been so surprised as to how much AI can do and how well it does it.”

In fact, technology plays an ever greater role in the way we live each day.

“Apart from identifying the problem, get your data ready,” Ignjatovic said.

Help With Employment

Advocates say artificial intelligence will have benefits on employment for small businesses.

“AI will reduce the amount of tedious analysis and work, but it will increase the need for higher-level thinking and analysis,” Taylor said. “It frees staff to do more creative things instead of tedious stuff.”

On one level, 3D experiences at theme parks will only get better.

“I learned how to take a picture of a data table and convert it into a functional spreadsheet,” Taylor said. “It was magical. AI tools are great at optimizing our creative ideas.”

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One caution: Through 2022, Gartner reports that 85 percent of AI projects will deliver erroneous outcomes due to bias in data, algorithms or the teams responsible for managing them.

“AI will not lead to massive unemployment,” Ignjatovic said. “It will lead to a better workplace, more free time and new skills.”

There are inherent risks of using artificial intelligence in a small-business context.

“The biggest risk is letting AI run wild,” Taylor said. “It’s good, but it’s not that good. You can’t give up your reviews or decision making.”

A great benefit for marketers is described in the DIYMarketers article, “AI Lead Generation Guide for Small Business.”

“The biggest risks — data bias — can lead to wrong decisions,” Ignjatovic said.

Small businesses can face several challenges when adopting artificial intelligence.

“They might be afraid of unfamiliar technologies,” Taylor said. “Also, a lot of AI programs require good data to work well.”

Stay in Control

Artificial intelligence evokes hope and anxiety, begging the question, will we master it, or will it control us?

“AI can be expensive to implement and maintain,” Ignjatovic said. “Secondly, it requires a significant amount of data to train the machine-learning algorithms.”

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The circle comes back to what type of business would you start if you could only use artificial intelligence?

“My business would write content and create email funnels,” Taylor said. “I’m not as proficient at it just yet.”

Ignjatovic thought of creating an AI-driven information technology service or a company based on security and cybersecurity. Another might be about energy and cost saving. Even an AI bookkeeper holds possibilities.

“People can make mistakes, but AI making a mistake is also likely,” she said. “I’m not sure I’d be happy with an AI bookkeeper.”

About The Author

Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on TwitterFacebook and LinkedIn.